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Ryo-fu Chardonnay

The 2016 Chardonnay Ryo-fu has compelling notes of baker's yeast, candied ginger, allspice and toasted almonds over a core of warm apricots, lemon pie and pink grapefruit. Medium-bodied with a great intensity of savory-laced stone fruit flavors, it has a lively line of acid and long, spicy finish.

Ryo-fu is Japanese for “cool breeze.” The cool, foggy breeze that comes off the Pacific Ocean allows the Russian River Valley to grow such high quality Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The area’s sandy soil is crucial as well, but without the right temperatures, the fruit could ripen too soon or not at all. Thanks to our local ryo-fu, the growing seasons are perfectly timed for our vineyards.

As usual, the largest components in our 2016 Ryo-fu Chardonnay come from Heintz Ranch and Keefer Ranch. Heintz Ranch is located just southeast of the town of Occidental, on the western edge of the Russian River Valley appellation. Since 2003, Freeman has purchased the same block of Chardonnay there, planted by Charlie Heintz in 1982. They are the oldest vines we work with at Freeman, and they give our Ryo-fu its elegant stone fruit and old world character. Wine from these grapes could easily stand alone as a vineyard designate, as it did for Freeman in 2003; but we especially love how it works in the Ryo-fu blend. Meanwhile Chardonnay from Keefer Ranch provides Ryo-fu with its backbone of acidity, as well some of the subtle fruit aromas found in the nose of the wine. Keefer Ranch is located in the Green Valley sub appellation of the Russian River Valley.

2016 marks a second year’s contribution from the excellent Searby Vineyard on Occidental Road—its old vines farmed by none other than Charlie Heintz (see above). And new this year we have grapes from the Lynmar Vineyard. They have been growing their own estate Chardonnay since the early ‘80’s, and it is an honor to be able to include a portion of their fruit in our Ryo-fu.

The 2016 Ryo-fu Chardonnay is a delightful wine that can be enjoyed much sooner than past few releases. The nose is a combination of delicate stone fruit and a lemon-cream character, without a hint of reduction or oak. There is a silkiness on the palate which is surprising in such a young wine. Fruit and acidity are effortlessly balanced, with no sharp edges. Enjoy this from 2018 through 2024.

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Specs

Vineyards
  • 33% Heintz Ranch
  • 31% Keefer Ranch
  • 25% Searby
  • 11% Lynmar
Barrel Aging
  • 14% new
  • 86% used
Bottling
December 4, 2017
Fermentation
Fermented and aged 15 months sur lies in French oak
Production
  • 750 ml: 806 cases

Scores

91 points
91 points

Accolades

Akiko Freeman from Freeman Winery wowed everyone with her discerning palate, which is how she found herself making Burgundian-style Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in California.

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Last week, we met with Ken Freeman, proprietor with his wife Akiko of Freeman Vineyard & Winery, to taste through his new Chardonnay and Pinot Noir releases from the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast. Ken and Akiko launched the winery in 2001 and today produce some 6 thousand cases of first-class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The Freemans source grapes from their Gloria Estate Vineyard, Yuk-ki Estate Vineyard and top neighboring vineyards in Russian River Valley and the Sonoma Coast. Akiko serves as winemaker, having acquired her knowledge of viticulture and winemaking by apprenticing with veteran winemaker Ed Kurtzman who now serves as consulting winemaker.

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